I am a sick woman… I am a spiteful woman. I am an unattractive woman, and unfuckable to boot. I have no idea, to be sure, about the condition of my liver or any of my other organs; the idea is to keep going as far as the body will take me until I drop dead one day, with no foreknowledge of the treacherous mutiny on the part of my inner parts. The world betrays you; there is no need to know that your body does, too. In some ways, some measure of ignorance is a protective layer for the intellect, just like an extra layer of fat around my muscles keeps me on the periphery of society, protects me in ways that might not protect other women. I am not prey to the lustful eyes that try to undress me, for example. No men would want to make the effort to kidnap me or pull me into their car and take me to a hidden alley.
I am protected.
Once they decided I was a monster I had to be kept away, and so now I roam the streets without a goal or a purpose, alone. People keep their distance; I get the sense that they can smell failure on me. They said that I was a difficult woman so it followed that life would be difficult. This is exactly what my mother would say if she was still alive. There are days when I acutely miss her nasty comments and constant judgments. She is dead now but her voice lives on inside me in ways I could never have predicted. Her voice seems to live between my legs, as well, and that is why parting them is such sweet sorrow, to the point where each time I do it (not for any man, mind, merely my own fingers), I consider never doing it again.
But if the flesh is weak, as one knows, never say never. The body makes trouble even as you try not to.
My fingers do the job as well as any man, I presume. I would not know, never having had a man between mine. But let’s take it as a given. Am I not a strong, independent woman who needs no man, a woman who should be celebrated, made into the symbol of modern feminism? Instead they run their eyes over my person and find something — or numerous things — lacking. Or they find certain things in excess. My body is lacking and it is too much, then. To that I say, Ha! Let my body confound.
I was not always this way. There is a break to where I can see a version of me in some distant past, but that past doesn’t seem to belong to me. You soon grow to realise that memories are not property. They are as natural as the elements and resistant to being contained within one form. It’s as futile as trying to trap wind in a box. The past me has been reclaimed by the world or lost to it.
Once upon a time I had adjusted myself to society: I had a job and a family who pretended to be proud of me. I even had a man who loved me with a kind of intellectual, polite love; his parts and my parts never met, but the promise was there — the parts would meet soon, the cherry would be plucked, and the fruits of our labour would be a display of attachment we could telegraph to the world. But then the man found someone else; newer, younger, thinner, prettier. My family had the reliable worldly successes of my siblings to focus on; I had nothing to show for anything, no car, no husband, no house. The job was lost when I was unable to understand the point of getting out of bed to mimic the actions of others in the cubicles all around me, waiting for a sliver of a reward via a monthly cheque and the ritual of abuse and humiliation from someone higher up in the corporate food chain. To the question “What is the point?” I received no adequate answer, and so I stopped. Working, or wanting to do the work.
I loathe others for the work they do and the pleasure they pretend to take in it. It takes all forms. I stopped waxing my legs and let my bush grow, luxuriant. I stopped threading my upper lip hair and my moustache gave me the air of a rakish trickster. I let the grey in my hair glint like diamonds when I stood under the streetlamps; a beacon, solitary and proud. I ate what I wanted and refused to chain myself to a machine in order to sweat and reap the rewards of an ass so proud that it could move on its own when I willed it to.
For refusing these labours, I have been punished.
I stand next to beautiful young things in the train wearing their beautiful clothes as they head to their well-paid jobs and I watch how the men look at them, how they desire them. When those men look at me they quickly avert their eyes. What does it matter to me?
I am protected.
I snipe at the man who accidentally treads on my toes on the way out of the train and he recoils, visibly alarmed, and walks away.
There is a certain thrill in being able to repel people. They don’t know how little I think of them, or how silly they look in their simpering attempts to be like everyone else. I sit in coffee shops and watch them until they become uncomfortable and move to a table further away, or leave the cafe entirely. The girls who stare at me and then snuggle into their boyfriend’s shoulders. The boyfriends who look at me like they’re looking for the right protective object — a knife, a leaf, a sugar sachet, anything — to ward off my evil eye, to prevent their sweet young possessions from being poisoned by the stare of the withered crone.
It is such a delight. I look and look until they have nothing to fight back with.
Subashini Navaratnam lives in Selangor, Malaysia and has published poetry and prose in Quarterly Literary Review Singapore, Mascara Literary Review, Sein und Werden, minor literature[s], Jaggery, DATABLEED, Deluge, PLINTH and Dead King, among others. Her writings on books have appeared in The Star (Malaysia), Pop Matters, 3:AM Magazine and Full Stop and she has published nonfiction in MPH’s anthology, Sini Sana as well as fiction in KL Noir: Yellow.
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